MOCKINGJAY PART 2 (PG-13)
THE POWERFUL FINAL CONCLUSION & CHARACTER STUDY"Mockingjay Part 2" brings the powerful story of one of the big screen's most riveting characters - Katniss Everdeen to a conclusion.
Part 2 picks up immediately at the end of Part 1 with Katniss in recovery after nearly being killed by a brainwashed Peeta Mellark. She is crushed to discover Peeta's former love for her has been turned into hatred and pointed towards her as an enemy of the Capitol. She comes to the complete realization that there is no extent to which President Snow will not go in order to destroy her and the rebellion. He must be stopped. Katniss approaches President Coin and volunteers to personally assassinate Snow, but Coin declines in favor of preserving Katniss as the face of the revolution. The young warrior realizes she is a weapon in Coin's arsenal and her only recourse is to take matters into her own hands.
Every great story has magnetic characters that draw you into their orbit and keep you coming back for more and HG is no different. For those of you who may not have read the books, here is a breakdown of the main characters.
1. Jennifer Lawrence
Lionsgate hit the bulls-eye when they selected Jennifer Lawrence to play the fascinating heroine Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence has become a household name at a young age because of her ability to play emotionally complex characters with total believability. As Katniss she is arguably one of the most reluctant heroines to have ever hit the big screen. Her journey that began with one moment of perfect self sacrifice, has thrust her upon a stage of savagery and disdain for human life. At every point in her journey she makes disturbing discoveries that propel her towards an un-chosen destiny. The cost for personal rebellion is steep, and she is systematically stripped of everything most precious to her. Lawrence is compelling because she captures her character's innocence, torments, struggle for sanity and personal demons as the story progresses. One of the most compelling reasons we love Katniss is that she never loses her humanity in the fight for justice. She is separated from the pack by her objective cause for the greater good, in which she seeks no personal gain.
2. Josh Hutcherson
As Peeta Mellark, Josh has experienced the type of character arch that every actor envies in a role. He begins as a love-struck teenager propelled by unknown forces into the arena and progresses full circle. As Peeta and Katniss are thrust into the games, then into the bubble of the victor's tour and their subsequent relationship, his initial teenage infatuation blossoms into real love. But it is unrequited. Though Katniss has a strong affection for him she is slower in the evolution of her feelings. Peeta, like Katniss realizes that there are greater forces at work behind the scenes and he determines that her life must be preserved at all costs. Hutcherson powerfully rendered an intense emotional performance as the brainwashed scapegoat of the Capitol's plan to destroy Katniss. His pain was so acutely portrayed that the hairs stood up on my arms in those scenes. Hutcherson's power-portrayal of Peeta bordering on an insanity free fall, are all the more moving because of his willingness to pay dearly for his connection with Katniss Everdeen.
3. Liam Helmsworth
As Gale he has secretly sheltered a love for Katniss since childhood, as he waits for her to return his feelings. The tables are turned when she volunteers for the games and he watches helplessly as Katniss gravitates toward Peeta who is the antithesis of everything that Gale stands for. He was entrusted with taking care of Katniss' family in her absence - a task he fulfills. Yet, as the rebellion grows his character becomes more jaded by the corruption, greed and power play, and his moral compass begins to disintegrate. The on screen version stayed true to the book displaying Gale as the quintessential strong silent stereotype. Though his feelings for Katniss are real, the momentum of the rebellion ends up pulling them in opposite directions. Gale ended up looking borderline pathetic as he was swept along by the gigantic forces of the regimes in combat.
4. Woody Harrelson
As the brash, drunken Haymitch Abernathy - winner of the 50th Hunger Games, he has mentored 23 other tributes since his victory. Too, he has far more in common with Katniss than it first appears, and he's a complex man with a sorrowful history. Reader's of the book know that the Capitol murdered his girlfriend, mother and younger brother after the 50th Hunger Games because of a stunt he pulled in the arena that was very similar to Katniss. Besides the personal loss, all his District 12 tributes have died in the arena leaving him using alcohol as his coping mechanism. Beneath the alcoholic stupor remains an astute thinker who's advice and eventual friendship to Katniss and Peeta becomes one of their best weapons in the overarching story. Harrelson played Haymitch brilliantly, and his character was interesting and compelling enough to make me look forward to any scenes in which he appeared. His bitterly sarcastic jokes clashed with almost all the other characters but were timely and were played with hints of pain etched beneath the surface.
5. Elizabeth Banks
Banks was delightful as the fluffy, trivial and self-absorbed Effie Trinket. She lives in the Capitol and among her duties, she is a model for Capitol Couture, and is assigned to District 12 as the drawer of names for the reaping. After which, she escort her tributes to the Capitol and coaches them in public relations for their participation in the games. Effie's task is to present the best possible "front" for the Capitol and she hopes that her tributes actually survive the games. Her humorous lines scattered throughout series brought much-needed relief to the otherwise dark story. Her opulent costumes were so magnificent in design and creativity that they almost became a character by themselves. Banks was a triumph in the part playing Effie to perfection, while growing in scope as she develops an unexpected, but genuine affection for Katniss' cause. By the story's conclusion I had developed a grudging respect for Ms. Trinket.
7. Donald Sutherland
President Snow is aptly named as the cold and ruthless leader of Panem. He has perpetuated a leadership that thrives on fear and tyranny. He will murder, trick, poison, steal and subdue to maintain total power throughout the Districts. It was Snow who murdered Haymitch's family and girlfriend after the 50th Hunger Games. He has also been known for poisoning any allies who look like potential foes. He once drank poison with suspected foes to avert suspicion, then took an antidote, but he suffers permanent mouth sores that bleed continuously. He covers it up with a white handkerchief and genetically engineered rose that conceals the scent of blood on his breath. Donald Sutherland is known for adding a touch of eccentricity to his characters, and Snow was the perfect platform for his considerable acting skills. Sutherland mastered Snow with finesse, capturing every nuance of his diabolical character. His portrayal was everything a villain should be, and reminded us why we like the bad guys so much.
A Thorough and Worthy Film Conclusion
Great films require numerous individual elements that must come together in perfect synchronicity to make them work. Good script, well cast actors, precise editing, good sound editing, solid costumes, fabulous and believable sets, great direction and a great musical score. This film series excels by bringing them all together to perfection. I could not finish a write-up without mentioning the haunting theme music composed by James Newton Howard that was so pivotal in propelling the movement and emotions of the story. Who can forget the whistle that permeates the Mockingjay theme song tagline? Or the song Katniss sings in MJ Part 1 "The Hanging Tree" that took on a life of its own on iTunes.
Director Francis Lawrence got his full measure from the cast, story and box office receipts. He gave us a stunning and comprehensive look at the world of Panem, as well as the exotic and superficial world of the Capitol. He also took us adequately inside the head of Katniss Everdeen; the latter being no easy feat since the books are narrated in Katniss' voice. However, thanks to the acting talents of Jennifer Lawrence, there were moments when we were able to read her thoughts and feel her pain. The story-lines were wrapped up well (despite the tragic loss of Phillip Seymour-Hoffman during filming). What an epic and satisfying conclusion to the global phenomenon that captured our imaginations and permanently etched a new heroine on our pop culture's landscape.